Paintings littered with meaning

Townscapes by artist Peter Appleton in show at View Two

Written by  The Confidentials | Follow @ | Tuesday, 5 November 2013 14:18

AWARD-winning Merseyside artist Peter Appleton loves nothing better than collecting litter as he captures on canvas his own impressions of urban and river landscapes.

But look carefully at his paintings and those discarded pieces of paper are there as part of his work.

Appleton's career as an artist proves life begins at 60 for somebody with the dream and the passion to swap a desk for an easel.

Just weeks away from that landmark birthday, Appleton is preparing for his first solo exhibition at Liverpool’s View Two Gallery at 23 Mathew Street.

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It follows a milestone success when his work won him the prestigious Richard Robbins Award for 2013, from the Open College of the Arts.

Painting has been part of his life since schooldays in his native St Helens. Like many children of the 1960s, he was guided to a “proper job” and embarked on a career that took him to Dundee University and then working for local councils around the country. 

He ended up as deputy chief executive of a district council in Shropshire where he headed a work group tasked with compiling a waste management plan. 

It was that last role that perhaps inspired him to utilise litter when in 2008 he retired and returned to his great passion for art. 

Peter AppletonPeter Appleton“That is when I decided to return to painting, and I studied art, first at Wirral Met and at the Bluecoat Gallery In Liverpool, then at OCA where I won a First Class Honours degree,” he says. 

The college each year selects a new talent from the world of art to receive an award made in honour of Richard Robbins, the internationally renowned British sculptor and painter, who was a member of the Royal Society. 

“Should I have chosen art as a teenager?  The award is recognition of my artistic skills, and I am sure the 30 years of a working life has helped me build up the emotions and life experiences needed to become a good painter. I call it a journey in time and in space.” 

Most of Appleton's work, usually in collage and gouache, depicts industrial townscapes in and around the River Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal. 

“I tend to paint outside when I can and that is where I pick up litter and pieces of newspapers and use them in my paintings. I find using something I have found at the location of a painting gives it a sense of place,” says Peter, who now works out of the 104 Duke Street Studios in Liverpool. 

“For me it was a watershed, a novel way of approaching my art. It’s possible it came from my professional life in regeneration.” 

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Appleton says social realism and man’s interaction with the landscape inspires him. 

“I feel strongly about many of the social and human issues facing us all and that much of the truth of those issues are latent to people. 

“Art, for me, can reflect the world back to people – both the positive and negative – and exposure might lead to debate and then to solutions. 

“I like to make comment on life, to communicate with people, open a debate, and make a contribution towards change for the good.”

*A Journey to the Places and People of the Mersey, View Two Gallery, 23 Mathew St, L2, Thurs Nov 7 to Nov 16. Gallery Open Thursdays, Fridays noon until 4pm, Saturdays noon until 5pm. Admission free.